Why the Difference Between America's Responses to Bombings In London, Madrid, Bali?

I know, I know. Another thread on the bombings in London. Still, after reading a recent fracas in the Pit, something occurred to me. In 2001, 2002, and 2004, there was a bombing which was later linked to Al Qaeda, as was last Thursday’s bombing in London. 2001, of course, was New York and the Pentagon; 2002 was Bali; 2004 was Madrid. I don’t remember anyone offering to fly Fijian flags after Bali was bombed or Spanish flags after Madrid was bombed, so what makes last Thursday different?

For me, it’s because I was born in England and still have family living there, but that doesn’t apply to America as a whole. Here are my theories.

First, timing. Word that London had been bombed came out shortly after 5:00 am Eastern time, when most network stations were already running their morning news shows and people were tuning in, as I do, to find out what’s happening with basic things like weather and traffic. If you wanted to time something so it would be bound to make the news, I’d pick either early in the morning or about 4 or 5 in the afternoon to catch people watching the news after they come home from work or while they’re driving home from work.

Second, media presence. American news media already had a lot of people in Great Britain to cover the G8 summit and the announcement that London had been given the 2012 Olympics. I’m fairly sure the networks were planning live feeds from London on Thursday morning anyway to show Londoner’s reactions to getting the Olympics, just as they would have done if they Olympics had been awarded to Paris or New York. There was no need to fly people in from somewhere else; they were already on-site and ready to go.

Third, similarity. Americans think, fairly accurately, that they and Englishmen have a lot in common. They speak a more or less common language and have more history in common with England than they do with Spain, Fiji, or Australia (most of the victims in Bali were Australians). This isn’t some remote tropical island or a city they’ve barely thought of although I’m not sure I know what it is, thanks to my hybrid existence.

Anyway, those are my theories and they’re biased by my own experiences.

Anyone else?

Perhaps Indonesian flags would have been the more appropriate response? :wink: In any case, the union jack is instantly recognisable to Americans - the Spanish flag perhaps slightly less so, and certainly the Indonesian one.

And the affinity with London is perhaps also a familiarity, both for those that have visited (and for whom words such as Kings Cross and Edgware Road have a personal resonance), and even for those who only know the London of Richard Curtis. The Madrid trains will have not been as recognisable as a red London bus.

Yes, America celebrated the murders in Bali and Madrid, why do we condemn these murders?

Get off it. You’re doing a flag census to what end? There has been no difference between reactions to these acts of murder. America didn’t bomb London, Islamic terrorists did.

I think the difference is between sympathizing with a casual acquaintance and sympathizing with your best friend. The intent isn’t to minimize the other tragedies, but a more profound reaction is understandable given the traditional close relationship between the US and UK.

I think Poster #3 may have misread the OP.

The commonality of the two cultures is most likely the answer to the OP.


I don’t see what the debate here is. Are we really expected to react exactly the same to every tragedy?

Of course not. Otherwise you’d have to fly the Iraqi flag on a permanent basis.

I’m afraid I’m completely confused by this post. This is not a “flag census”; it’s merely an examination of America’s different response to similar events in different countries. At no point did I or would I ever say that America bombed London, Madrid, or Bali or that America “celebrated the murders” in the latter two. We appear to have a misunderstanding.

GorillaMan, thanks for the correction!


Probably not, but it does no harm to ask the question. We’re none of us any the worse for examining our attitudes from time to time.

I’d be inclined to delete the “fairly accurately,” myself. I’m constantly surprised by the differences between us. Not a value judgement, merely an observation.

This tragedy is different for me because, as I said, I have family in England. On the other hand, some people in the Pit were saying some rather unpleasant things about America’s various responses. Speaking purely objectively and from rather faulty memory, all three bombing were covered differently. I thought it might be interesting to look at why.

By the way, wot not, having been raised by British parents in America, I’ll agree that the differences are greater than a lot of Americans suspect.


One theory I’ve heard is that the US and Britain tend to have eachother’s back so often in the last century or so is that we have common cultural ties (the US being founded by former English colonists, after all) combined with the fact that we have bloodied eachothers’ noses in various wars, as well as backing eachother up against common foes. No doubt the centuries-old economic ties shared by the two countries helped cement this bond too.